Today's Workout: 5 min warm up, 8 hills (walk in between), 5 min cool down
I will preface this post with saying I have only run one marathon. I have run a few halves, and I plan to run many more full and half marathons. My brother has run a handful of marathons, my high school and college teammates have also dabbled in the distance. However, when I am looking for training plan guidance, I always look to my dad. He ran in college, and professionally afterwards. I have mentioned his running story before, here. As a 2:19 marathoner, I think his opinion is worth a lot.
I suport his firm belief that you do not need to run 20+ miles before actually racing the marathon distance.
I know this statement for many of you will result in viewing me lacking validity as a runner, but hear me out.
The longest I would go before the marathon is 18 miles (15 miles preferably). Determine what your goal time is for the marathon and however long it takes you to do the run (18 or 15 miles), go on the bike or elliptical for the remaining time and do some interval work. This will show you that you can continue aerobic activity for the required length of time, build your cardio endurance, while giving your legs a break from the pounding on the pavement.
I know not going above 20 may freak you out, but the only people I know that have run that distance before a marathon while staying healthy and were able to finish the race around the time they wanted were college teammates that were used to 70-80 miles/week routines throughout college. Even still, some accomplished runners have a hard time maintaining those distances and staying healthy. I for one know from experience that I cannot do more than 65 miles/week continuously without getting injured. So, if I want to do increased cardio work it has to be on the bike or elliptical. I guarantee you will be better off (mentally and physically) being able to run 18 miles at a strong pace a few times (in addition to other low impact cardio) than running 26 miles slowly once before the race.
While some friends take this advice, others have gone a different way and (in most cases) regretted it later. I only bring up this topic because I am finally getting some backing from valued opinions: Runners World, Active, and Competitor.
Like I have mentioned before, I am not a registered trainer, this is just my outlook on marathon prep.